Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

My Thoughts

Dr. Bill AtwoodJuly 2, 2013 

From the pen of one of the smartest men to have ever walked this planet came our nation's birth certificate. Thomas Jefferson's words would not only send shock waves through the colonies but across the Atlantic right to the throne of George the Third.

The well-educated Virginian proffered the concept that all men were created equal and that they were endowed by their creator with certain rights and that those rights included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The men who signed that wonderful document that year knew what it meant to take such a stand. To the king of England and his troops, the act of signing the declaration was treason and those who signed were subject to death. Many lost their property and much of their wealth.

They knew the deal when they signed and they stated such with the phrase, "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The resolution delivered by Richard Henry "Lighthorse" Lee on July 2, 1776 stated that the colonies should, and of right, ought to be free and independent states from Great Britain. That led to the publication of the document and the signing a few days later.

Actually, many of the signers did not sign the declaration until August of 1776. The important fact is that those founding fathers took the action that required a great deal of bravery to complete.

Thinking about the circumstances that make a group of wealthy, well-connected, spiritual men who had been born into British society and for the most part had very comfortable lives turn into revolutionaries in a relatively short span of time makes one take pause.

Just a few years earlier, most would have stated they had zero intention of separating from England as the British Empire afforded each of them a great deal of security and a high standard of living. What then turned these prosperous men into men who went against their king?

Taxes were a problem. The king and the parliament had begun to levy more and more taxes upon those in the colonies and the colonists felt that they were baring the costs of the government without the benefits of being citizens. It seemed to those in the colonies that everything was subject to a tax. Taxes on tea. Taxes on paper. Taxes on whiskey. They felt the tax collectors were taking an unfair share of their income, property, and wealth.

Regulations were becoming burdensome. The declaration mentions swarms of government staff regulating the colonists and the rules and regulations were being enforced against the will of the colonists.

Soldiers were being sent in to keep everyone in line. The people on this side of the Atlantic were quite different from their brethren in England and did not appreciate the fact that armed troops were being sent to enforce the laws upon the colonists.

Colonists were becoming concerned that their arms might be taken away in order for the crown to ensure that there would be no insurrections. In April of 1775, the British under Major Pitcairn, began to confiscate some of the colonist's weapons.

The government was getting too involved in the religions of the colonists and folks wanted the government out of politics. Please note they did not want religion out of politics, but government out of religion. That is what they meant by separation of church and state.

Since the signing of our birth certificate, 86,564 days have come and gone and this wonderful experiment in liberty and freedom being exercised in a manner that accepts leadership by the consent of the governed has been a beacon of hope to many around the globe.

Are we perfect? Certainly not. We have made mistakes and we have done things poorly. However, we are an exceptional country in our legacy of helping other nations defend themselves. We are exceptional in our willingness to assist others when disasters occur. We are exceptional in that we have created a standard of living that is the envy of the world.

As we gather to celebrate our birth as a nation and our enjoyment of liberty and freedom protected by our great veterans, let's remind ourselves of those wonderful ideals that define us. Ideals so exceptional that elected men were willing to pledge to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.

Happy Birthday America.

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